A Waitlisted Effort

For a movie that strives for both comedy and drama, Admission has some good talent both in front of and behind the camera.  The movie is directed by Paul Weitz, who co-helmed About a Boy, and it stars Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, two comic actors who have had some decent success in recent years.  Unfortunately, in attempting to provide both comic and dramatic elements, the movie ends up somewhere in between the two; giving us neither enough comedy, nor enough drama.  The result is a movie that just kind of sits there, giving us very little to take away from it.

Fey stars as Portia Nathan.  Portia is an admissions officer at Princeton University, who spends all day examining and judging other people’s lives without ever really taking the time to examine her own.  While preparing to select the latest freshman class, Portia finds her own life taking a turn. Shortly after her long-time live-in boyfriend leaves her for someone younger, she’s in front of a class of seniors at a progressive high school that encourages their students to ask the tough questions; which they do.  Not only that, but John Pressman, the head of the school played by Rudd, drops the bomb on her that his brightest student is also probably the son that Portia gave up for adoption when she was in college.

Tina Fey as Portia Nathan in AdmissionAt first, Portia scoffs at the idea that Jeremiah might be her son, but John’s persistency slowly starts to wear on her and she suddenly finds herself greatly interested in finding out more about him.  As she does this, she slowly comes to the realization that Jeremiah is exactly the kind of person who belongs at Princeton.  Due to his sub-par grades, however, her colleagues don’t quite feel the same way, leading Portia into the moral dilemma of doing what is right for Princeton and doing what is best for this boy she increasingly believes to be her son.

Admission succeeds on a minor level.  Although there aren’t many big laughs in the movie, there is enough to keep you chuckling throughout and Tina Fey is an easy one to root for.  The device of having the kids in the room while the admission’s officers are reviewing their files also works, even if it isn’t super original.

The characters, however, aren’t that original either. In fact, many of the supporting characters are little more than clichés and there is nothing really interesting about any of them; the lone exception probably being Portia’s mother, a role which Lily Tomlin takes off and runs with.  There is too much going on with a lot of these supporting characters, too, which feels more like it takes away from the story rather than adds to it.

Although Fey and Rudd are two very funny people, the script of Admission doesn’t really give them enough comic ammunition with which to work.  A lot of the stuff that they do get is delivered with comic timing that seems to be just a little bit off, too, and the movie lacks any genuinely great or memorable comic moments.

If this movie were itself a candidate for Princeton admission, those making the decisions would probably decide it just didn’t have enough going for it to be admitted.  At best, it’s a waitlisted effort.

Admission is rated PG-13 for “language and some sexual material.”  Everything is brief and this movie could arguably have gotten away with a PG rating.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Admission.